Chris Herren's story of his rise and fall in the game of basketball and his battles with substance abuse have become very well known on the national level. His story has been documented in various mediums including a book he co-wrote with Providence Journal columnist Bill Reynolds entitled Basketball Junkie; A Memoir and through ESPN's popular documentary series 30 for 30 entitled Unguarded.
Herren's ability to overcome his addictions is a fantastic tale in its own right, but it's what Herren does with his time now that's really impressive.
All his successes on the hardwood and even seeing the polished professional Herren has become today is small in comparison to the mission he has been on since August 1, 2008. That date marks Herren's sobriety and where he started down a road where there would be many stops and many people who have needed his help along the way.
Herren came to the TIMES NEWS area this past Thursday and Friday where he spoke at Lehighton High School Thursday night and Friday morning and then also spoke at Jim Thorpe High School Friday afternoon. I sat down with Herren and he told me his story of how he started speaking to schools and organizations and also about his foundation The Herren Project.
TIMES NEWS: "When did you start talking to schools and organizations about your story with substance abuse?"
Chris Herren: "It was after my book had come out and I started to get some calls from college athletic directors who had read my story. Every year they would bring in a speaker to come in and talk about substance abuse and they wanted me to do it. So I did the first one and then the calls started to come in more frequently. Anytime you write a book and the story intrigues people they're going to want you to come into their work and speak. I've been lucky with the fact that I've been able to keep speaking for this long. Usually, in public speaking you kind-of can be phased out quickly because there's always the next guy with the next book. I think it shows just how serious the substance abuse problem really is."
TN: "How did the whole 30 for 30 documentary Unguarded come about?"
CH: "I have a really good relationship with Chris Mullin and his family and his wife Liz is very friendly with the film company Hock Films, who had previously done the Marcus Dupree story. So we were all in New York City as a family and the Mullin's wanted to take me over to the Hock Films studio. They introduced me to John Hock and then I got a phone call a couple weeks later asking me if I wanted to do a documentary. I honestly told them I think they missed the story because I thought it would have been better if they were with me right when I got sober to show me getting my life back. They said they still wanted to do it and what really put it together was the footage they got from HBO. HBO wanted to do a documentary on me while I was in college and I told Hock Films to try and get the footage from HBO and that's what they did."
TN: "How does it feel now that you can give back, telling your story, and knowing that someone is always going to go through this type of problem?"
CH: "I feel like my whole purpose in all of this is being someone that a kid can be comfortable telling their problems to. That's the ultimate measure for me when I leave a school and I get an e-mail saying this who I am and this is my story. That e-mail starts a process of healing for the kid because usually that's a secret that they've never told anybody before. There's no better feeling for me when I a kid contacts me and I can help them."
Herren also talked about his foundation called The Herren Project. It was founded in 2011 and is a non-profit foundation that assists individuals and families struggling with addiction. The mission of The Herren Project is to provide assistance in taking the first steps toward recovery and a life of sobriety, including effective treatment, educational programs and resources to increase awareness on the signs of addiction and bring hope for a better tomorrow. The Herren Project also works directly with rehabilitation centers in the New England area to provide financial assistance for those without health insurance who cannot afford treatment.